The federal government’s practice of calling American Samoans “non-nationals” is unconstitutional, District Court judge Clark Waddoups said. Fitisemanu et al. v. United States1:18-cv-00036-CW (D. Utah, December 12, 2019). Judge Waddoups has directed the government to recognize the citizenship of people born in American Samoa.
U.S. citizenship can be acquired either at birth or after birth.
It is acquired at birth when a person is:
- Born in the United States or in certain areas within the jurisdiction of the United States. or
- Born abroad of a parent or parents who were citizens at the time the person was born.
After birth, citizenship is either:
- Derived or acquired by US citizens by simply applying for citizenship; or
- Acquired through the naturalization process.
The terms “citizen” and “national” are often used interchangeably – but they are not synonymous. While all U.S. citizens are U.S. citizens, a U.S. citizen is not necessarily a U.S. citizen. A person who is only a US citizen:
- Has the irrevocable right to remain in the United States or its territories;
- Entitled to a U.S. passport that identifies the person as a citizen and not a citizen.
- Is entitled to consular protection abroad;
- Can apply for naturalization after three months’ stay;
- Must not take part in federal elections;
- Must not hold an elected federal office; and
- Certain jobs that require US citizenship may not be permitted.
This differs from legal permanent residence (“green card” status) because the US status is irrevocable, while the green card status is revocable. Another difference is that permanent residents typically have to wait three to five years before applying for citizenship through the naturalization process, while US citizens only have to wait three months.
There are currently not many groups of people who are US nationals. Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and guam began granting birth certificates in 1917, 1927 and 1952. Individuals born in American Samoa are U.S. citizens and are not eligible for first-time birth. in the Fitisemanu, Judge Waddoups ruled that three Utah residents who were born in American Samoa were American citizens with birthright.
Judge Waddoups ruled that people born in American Samoa should be “under the jurisdiction” of the United States and should have birthright. He believed that the immigration and nationality act (INA) stipulating that these residents are only US citizens was unconstitutional after the 14th amendment.
This is not the first time that this problem has reached the federal courts. In 2015, the DC Circuit came to the opposite conclusion and the Supreme Court declined to review the case. If the 10thth The circuit (which is responsible for Utah) confirms Judge Waddoups’ opinion that a division of the circuits will be made, which could possibly result in a review by the US Supreme Court. Judge Waddoups has remained his decision until the case can be challenged.
The government of American Samoa refused to grant a first-time child in court. arguing threatens their traditional culture and deprives the Samoans of the ability to choose their own status – as they did before this recent decision could apply for US citizenship,
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